Protecting Your PC

As anyone who uses Windows on a regular basis will tell you, security is a problem. It’s a problem because Windows is the biggest target out there, and every script-kiddie, virus-writer with half a brain can write software to exploit it.

It takes time and effort to lock down a computer. More than time and effort than most end users are willing to dedicate to the issue. Securing your computer is more than preventing unauthorised access, it’s about protecting your private data, and ensuring that your computer continues to work the way you want it to. So here’s my basic guide to securing your home PC.

Install an Anti-Virus Program & Keep it Updated

There are plenty of free anti-virus (AV) programs out there, more than enough to satisfy your needs. Get one, install it and keep it updated. Most AV programs use a database to recognise viruses. Without an up to date database you will not be protected against the latest threats. Run full system scans at least every month. If your AV program comes with a built in scheduler, then use that to scan automatically every month.

Use a Software Firewall to Prevent Access From The Internet

In addition to your AV program you need a firewall. And once again, there are plenty of free firewalls available. If you have a broadband internet connection, set your firewall to start with Windows. If you use a router to connect to the Internet, enable the routers firewall also. Your firewall can also let you know if there are programs trying to connect to the Internet without asking. If you do become infected with a virus or other malware, then at least you can prevent it from spreading or passing on your private information.

Install an Anti-Spyware Program

Not all threats come in the form of viruses. These days your browser is just as likely to be the source of the problem. Free toolbars, cursors, peer to peer sharing programs all come laden with spyware – programs that track what you do and report back to their developers. They use a lot or your computers processing power and your Internet bandwidth. Using an up to date anti-spyware program can help remove them and give you back your computer. Update and run the program every month.

Be Wary of Email

First off, you need a decent email client. Choose one that incorporates Spam Filtering. Don’t use Outlook Express, unless you really have to. As an email program OE is very under-featured, and full of security holes. Get a different one or use your email providers webmail facilities.

This is probably the hardest part of securing your computer. This is the part that requires real time and energy, because you need to educate yourself. According to recent reports, spam email makes up about 90% of all emails sent. As well as attachments containing viruses, email is also used to “phish” and scam.

A phishing email is one that requests you to click a link and enter login details, usually for a bank account or for ebay and Paypal. These companies will never contact you via email requesting your password or login details. So don’t do it. Delete the email straight away and forget about it.

Email scams take many forms, but the most common are the Advance Fee Fraud and Penny Stocks. You will not make millions through email, or through buying stocks like this. It won’t happen, and will never happen.

Use a Secure Browser

Don’t use Internet Explorer. Pure and simple. It’s been the vector for so many different types of attacks that it’s not even funny. The only thing that you should use IE for is Windows Updates. And only then if you have disabled automatic updates. Get Firefox. It’s much better, safer and more secure than IE. If Firefox is not your cup of tea, then use Opera. But use at least one of them in place of Internet Explorer.

Update Everything

Update your AV, update your firewall, update your anti-spyware, update your browser, update Windows. Every month. And keep doing it.

Most programs are set to automatically check for updates. Use these features and install the updates. Allow Windows to update automatically so that you get the latest patches and security fixes. Install service packs as they become available.